Southbank substation explodes during attempted copper theft 

Brendan Rees

Police are hunting a man suspected of causing a substation to explode in Southbank after allegedly trying to steal copper on November 17.

Melbourne Crime Investigation Unit detectives have appealed to the public in the hope to identify the man who broke into a substation on Fawkner St about 5pm.

Police alleged the man used a spanner to steal copper worth $1000 from a power board, causing a large explosion.

CCTV captured the incident in which a flash of light followed by plumes of smoke could be seen in the street as a car drove past.


A man is captured leaving a substation in Southbank moments after it exploded with him still inside


“The man managed to walk out of the substation empty-handed and not seriously injured,” a police spokesperson said.

“He was last seen getting into an orange Holden Captiva on Moore St and drove away from the scene.”

The man is described as Caucasian and aged between 30 to 50 years old. He was last seen wearing a hi-vis top with navy blue pants and a blue hat.

Detective Senior Constable Mallory Bubb from the Melbourne CIU described the incident as “quite confronting” and that it was lucky no members of the public were injured.

“It was really brazened for the time of day that it was when the explosion and the damage was caused,” she said.

Det Sen Const Bubb said there were a couple of witnesses at the scene but urged anyone with any information to come forward.

CitiPower group manager of security Michael Hayes said it was a “very serious incident” and could have resulted in “catastrophic circumstances”.

“They [offenders] pose a risk to the electricity suppliers, to customers, to members of the public and, of course, themselves,” he said.


Copper thefts are a big issue not only for our industry, the electricity distribution industry; it’s also an issue for the transport industry, the telecommunications construction industry and it’s certainly on the rise and these events just indicate how serious these offenders are at getting their hands on copper.


Mr Hayes said CitiPower was assisting police with their investigation, which was “certainly most recently is one of the most serious ones we’ve dealt with”.

“We have had fatalities on our network and other networks in the electricity distribution industry and that’s a real concern,” he said.

“We were fortunate on this occasion that there was no disruption to supply. This asset is in the process of being decommissioned,” he said but added it was more the fact that someone could’ve been standing nearby.

“It’s a fine line between stupidity and courage and this person was very lucky in the circumstances.”


Detective Senior Constable Mallory Bubb from the Melbourne CIU and CitiPower group manager of security Michael Hayes at the scene of the explosion. Picture: Ajay Viswanath.


Mr Hayes said CitiPower took security seriously and were implementing controls, surveillance systems, alarms, and working with other industry partners to resolve the issue of copper theft.

“We’re seeing public lighting being targeted, we’re seeing consumer mains in new housing estates … and transformers mounted on poles,” he said.

“In our industry it’s extremely dangerous … it’s definitely on the increase for our and other industries.”

In November, police charged a man after $30,000 worth of copper was allegedly stolen from a building site on Victoria Parade, East Melbourne, about 2.15am on July 27.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. •


Main caption: CCTV footage captured a substation exploding after an attempted theft of copper.

Join our Facebook Group